The ACLU of Southern California is proud to announce that its Deputy Executive Director James Gilliam is the recipient of the Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association of Los Angeles’ 2012 Co-Presidents Award.
The award recognizes Gilliam’s tireless efforts and work to stop bullying, particularly against LGBTQ students. In September 2010, he launched and serves as the director of the Seth Walsh Student Rights Project, following the suicide of 13-year-old Seth Walsh of Tehachapi. Gilliam worked with Seth Walsh’s mother to advocate against his school district after Seth hanged himself to escape years of painful bullying and harassment he experienced at school for being gay.
According to LGLA, Gilliam was selected for the award because he “identified an unmet need in the community and decided that need had to be met with information that empowers individuals.” The project’s mission is to stop unlawful bullying in California schools and to create school communities that promote safety and respect for all students. Gilliam has also been an assiduous advocate of anti-bullying legislation and tolerance education in the Southern California community, leading to the passage this year of Seth’s Law. He will also be recognized for his many years of dedicated service to the LGBTQ community as an attorney and longtime civil rights activist.
James Gilliam, pictured with Judy Shepard (left) and Jane Velez-Mitchell.“I remember those painful years of growing up being bullied and harassed in my home state of Tennessee just because I was gay,” said Gilliam. “No child should have to suffer humiliation or die by his own hand simply because of who he is. I’m proud to direct a project that works to protect LGBTQ students and to serve as an example that they can lead fulfilling, proud lives and not live in fear.”
Gilliam has been the deputy executive director of the ACLU/SC since 2010. Before joining the civil liberties organization, he was a litigation associate and pro bono coordinator at Paul Hastings. He served as co-chair of the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Sexual Orientation Bias committee for several years and has served on the board of directors for the National LGBT Bar Association. He teaches seminars on sexual orientation law and public interest law practice at Loyola Law School.
“We feel privileged to work with someone as courageous as James, who has dedicated himself to stop bullying and help save the lives of LGBTQ students,” said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU/SC. “James has become a national spokesperson on the issue of bullying, and we are extremely proud that people around the country are looking to the Seth Walsh Student Rights Project and James as a resource for addressing bullying and the fatal consequences it can have.”
In 2010, the National LGBT Bar Association named Gilliam one of the Best LGBT Attorneys Under 40, and in 2011 KCET honored him in its inaugural class of LGBT “Local Heroes.”